MLA NEwsletter

Session Summary: Provider-Neutral Cataloging for Digital Scores

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At the MLA/TLA 2021 conference, Chuck Peters (Indiana University) and Keith Knop (University of Georgia) discussed policies and guidelines to consider when creating provider-neutral bibliographic records for digital scores. Provider-neutral records are a critical solution for cataloging the growing number of online resources, photocopies, and print-on-demand reproductions of identical resources.

Chuck opened the session by discussing the challenges of cataloging digital scores, the biggest hurdle being a lack of music-specific guidelines and procedures. Even so, he noted that general cataloging guidelines and procedures such as the PCC Provider-Neutral E-Resource MARC Records Guide and the OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards could be helpful. He shared later how he had applied these procedures and guidelines.

The PCC policies define the provider-neutral model as one in which “single bibliographic records are used to describe multiple online manifestations of a resource regardless of which publisher or aggregator is making the content available.” PCC guidelines emphasize that the provider-neutral model should apply only to equivalent manifestations of the same expression. Manifestations with variations, such as differences in edition, should have separate bibliographic records.  The provider-neutral model is intended to encompass online resources simultaneously issued in physical format and online, online digital reproductions of physical format resources, and born-digital resources. However, provider-neutral records are only meant to be used as templates on which libraries can add local details.

Chuck noted that the PCC guidelines only allow certain types of provider-specific information in provider-neutral bibliographic records, such as field 588 “description based on” notes or field 856 URLs that do not contain institution-specific data. He emphasized that these limitations are essential, because even if a single entity initially provided the resource, multiple sources could provide that same resource later.

Chuck also discussed special guidelines found in chapter three of the OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards, which mirror PCC guidelines, though they contain separate sections for online digital resources and photocopies, as well as print-on-demand reproductions.

Next, Keith showed how the PCC Provider Neutral Guidelines apply to MARC fields. He noted that elements in some MARC fields, such as the leader and fixed fields, are mandatory and look the same in every record. Figure 1.1 shows an example of how these fields look in the bibliographic record of an online resource.  Note the presence of two subfield $e in 040 to indicate this is a provider-neutral record, the presence of ‘m’ in the 006 field to indicate the item described is a computer file, and the presence of ‘c’ in subfield $a of the 007 field to indicate the item is an electronic resource.

Figure 1.1

Keith then discussed essential MARC fields that will vary from record to record depending on the nature of the resource being cataloged. The 3XX fields (which describe the physical nature of the resource) are an example. He also cited the 588 field, which references notes about the source of the description, including the date on which the resource was viewed.

Figure 1.2 Sample from a bibliographic record of an online provider-neutral resource.  These MARC fields will vary depending on the nature of the resource being cataloged.

He also mentioned MARC fields that could be included in digital score records if a print version existed, such as the 02X fields, as well as ISBN, ISNM, or publisher and plate numbers. However, additional subfields are necessary, such as $z for ISBN or ISNM, and $q to indicate that these numbers only describe the print version. The 776 field, which links to the OCLC record of an existing print resource, must be included if the print version is referenced anywhere else in the bibliographic record. 856 fields could also be included, but per PCC guidelines, the URLs must omit institution-specific information.

Figure 1.3 Provider-neutral bibliographic record with 776 fields indicating presence of equivalent print versions of the resource being described. 

Before showing a sample record, Chuck briefly remarked that the score and part(s) for digital scores may exist together in the same PDF file or be provided in separate PDF files. At Indiana University, local practice is to record “1 score and part” in the 300 field if the score and part(s) are in the same PDF file, but “1 score + parts” if the score and part(s) are in separate PDF files. Using Matthew Tommasini’s “Towards the Wall: for Contrabass and Piano” as an example, he pointed out the 500 note that also indicated the score and part were in separate PDF files. Because his institution circulated the print version of the score, he had included a 776 field with a link to the OCLC print score record.

Figure 1.4  Provider-neutral bibliographic record of Tommasini’s “Towards the Wall”.

bibliographic record for Tommasini's "Towards the Wall"

bibliographic record for Tommasini's "Towards the Wall"

Keith concluded by recommending the application of constant data in OCLC to streamline both the process for creating records, as well converting derived physical records into electronic records. Applying constant data can be done through Connexion Client, Connexion Browser, or Record Manager, as shown by the OCLC guidelines linked in the presentation slides.

An audience member asked if best practices were available that would establish consistent cataloging standards for digital scores. Keith and Chuck affirmed that the Electronic Scores Cataloging Task Group within the CMC Content Standards Subcommittee is currently working on provisional best practices. The task group is also collaborating with the larger MLA Electronic Scores Working Group, as acquisition and licensing decisions can impact scores processing and cataloging. They are optimistic that  guidelines for cataloging and access of these digital scores will become more widely available.

Update: Since this presentation, the Music Library Association Electronic Scores Working Group had its first meeting on Friday, April 30, 2021.  The working group divided into the following subgroups: discovery, licensing and acquisition, cataloging, tangible preservation and binding, digital preservation, and advocacy.  The Working Group plans to meet on a monthly to semi-monthly basis to discuss each subgroup’s progress toward establishing more consistent, community-wide documentation for the acquisition and processing of digital scores.

Submitted by Chelsea Hoover, Catalog Librarian for Music, Syracuse University Libraries

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